When Lee and I walked onto the community college campus, I almost had to pinch myself. How many times had college felt like a galaxy far, far away? How many times had I asked myself if Lee’s attention deficit disorder (ADHD or ADD), anxiety, and learning disabilities would keep her out of any classroom after high school? And yet she had been the one to make the decision to try college in the fall. She’d applied and been accepted into college, then the program for students with disabilities.
Not knowing what to expect, Lee took a long breath and opened the door. Her counselor, Ms. Lacey, motioned us into her office, giving Lee the chair directly in front of her desk and me the chair behind Lee, against the back wall. Even though it was a small space between us, I still felt a football field away from my daughter. Lee turned around as if to make sure the invisible cord that had always connected us in IEP meetings was still intact. I gave her a reassuring nod, ready for whatever came our way.
Ms. Lacey asked, “What kind of accommodations do you think you’ll need in college?”
At Lee’s final IEP in high school, a transition counselor from the district had gone over the most important accommodations for college. I crossed my fingers as Lee reeled them off like a grocery list: a note taker, permission to test in a separate room, and preferential seating.
Ms. Lacey said, “Sure.” She made notes on her computer.
Sure? I thought about the huge battle I’d waged with Lee’s tenth grade math teacher for notes, only getting them when she was close to failing. Permission to test in a separate room was a tricky one, given that tests had to travel out of the classroom and could be hijacked on the way, depending on the courier. Preferential seating was never a given, due to the way students had to be grouped for disciplinary reasons.
Ms. Lacey explained their office also had audio device recorders Lee could use, plus a designated note taker for each class. Lee turned around and gave me a thumbs-up. I grinned and started to relax.
Ms. Lacey said, “I see you have dyslexia. Would you like audiobooks for every class?”
Lee threw her arms in the air. “Yes! That would be incredible!” She looked back at me again, her face flushed with pleasure. How many times had she wished for audiobooks in history or science? Ms. Lacey was like a fairy godmother. With each wave of her wand, another wish became reality.
“Tell me more about your learning disabilities. How is your math affected?”
As Lee explained her difficulty with calculations, my mind wandered over all the years I’d been her parent advocate. I’d been so angry when I had to beg for accommodations that should have been my daughter’s right. Why couldn’t it have been this easy? My defensive armor started to melt.
Ms. Lacey said, “I’m going to put you in my 10 a.m. math class.”
Lee was silent, and I felt my mom radar ping. She had horrible insomnia, and I knew she wanted to register for afternoon classes. I couldn’t hold back, even if that was my new place in her adult life.
I said, “Lee, are you sure you can make a 10 a.m. class?”
Ms. Lacey said, “If she can’t, she can just come to my 11:30 one. I have a wonderful tutor in the first class, so I’d prefer her to try that first.”
“I’ll try it!” Lee said, her eagerness rolling off her in waves.
I said, “Just where have you been these last 12 years?”
Lee said, “Yeah, like my mom’s been Warrior Mom for so long, we never knew it could be like this.”
Ms. Lacey gave us a warm smile. “Welcome to college. Of course, it will be up to you, Lee, to let us know if you’re having any problems. Oh, by the way, you mentioned preferential seating?”
When our appointment was over, Ms. Lacey brought us into the hallway to wait for another counselor. Lee grabbed me and whispered, “Mom, I cried three times. Can you believe all this help? I think I’m going to make it in college.”
Tears welled up in my own eyes, and we gave each other a quick hug.
A man walked up to us. “Hi, I’m Pete. I’m going to assist you with the technology you’ll need in your classes.”
“Of course you are,” Lee said, starting to laugh.
Pete looked a little confused. “Follow me,” he said.
“OK,” I said, laughing too. “We’ve waited a long time to follow.”